It is an undeniable fact that Indian Muslims live under precarious socio-economic and educational conditions. Illiteracy, unemployment, low professional skills, poverty and other socio-economic ills are rampant in this community of 130 million. But whenever the issue of Muslim backwardness is raised, it is quickly dismissed by the communalists and bigoted elements as a figment of someone's imagine. They claim that the Muslim minority is pampered at the expense of the Hindu majority. Others, including some from secularist and progressive traditions, while acknowledging backwardness, insist that the reasons for backwardness lie within the community. They assert that the Muslim population needs to free itself from rigid observance of religious and traditional values to get on the path to progress. Is there such a thing as Muslim backwardness in India? What are the reasons for it? How does Muslim economic condition in the early twenty first century compare with the recent and distant past? Dr.Omar Khalidi in Muslims in Indian Economy attempts to answer these and related questions empirically and analytically.
Khalidi provides a macro analysis of the economic condition culling data from various sources including historical accounts, governmental gazettes, interviews and news reports. The data from 1870s until the 1940s is easily available as the colonial government published routinely compiled the educational condition and economic levels of population groups in general and their shares in state employment. This changed when the Nehru administration decided that the collection of such data heightens communal tension. However, this policy was never fully implemented and the successive governments collected such data for internal use but did not declassify them even after the passage of several decades. Understandably, Khalidi???s micro-analysis is limited to the regions/states of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra due to the absence of or lack of access to reliable data from the other states.
The early Muslim community largely consisted of military aristocracy and did not take part in commercial ventures. It was busy ???soldiering and governing??? and its worldview on money did not stress wealth creation. The gradual conversion of some castes and outcastes of Hinduism led to the emergence of the Muslim commercial artisan classes (Khojas, Labbis Memons, etc). The conversion to Islam of peasant communities while improving their social standing did not improve their economic status. Khalidi writes that the pattern of economic stratification of the Muslim community which emerged during medieval times continues to this day : ???a community of miniscule numbers in trade, slightly large numbers in military numbers in military and bureaucracy , larger number of artisans, and the largest number of landless peasants.??? However, a cursory look at the available data in military and police services (compiled by Khalidi in his Khaki and Ethnic Violence) and bureaucracy shows that the first two categories in this classification should be interchanged.
Challenging the popular perceptions Khalidi shows that the Muslims coming from military, bureaucratic and learned backgrounds did take to modern education during the colonial era in a majority of provinces and regions. It is true that early on they shunned modern education while the Hindus adapted quickly to changed circumstances. ???Most Muslims were too conservative to learn English, many considering it the highway to infidelity. But the Hindu classes were not; they had learnt Persian for a livelihood, in the past, so why not English and they soon monopolized the subordinate services.???
However, thanks to the efforts of pioneers like Sir Syed they tried to catch up and by 1871 they were showing remarkable improvement. Their representation in governmental services was on par with their population percentage and in some instances they were even over represented. A report compiled by the Aitchison Commission in 1886, for instance, showed that Muslims who accounted for 13.4% of the population in N-W Provinces and Oudh held 44.8% of executive positions and 45.9% of judicial positions. They were 2.4% in the Central Provinces and yet held 18.1% of the combined executive and judicial positions. The reservation granted to them in 1925 ensured that they were adequately represented in governmental services. The British Army consisted of 30-36%, against the 23 percent Muslims in the national population as per the census of 1941.
Just as there were signs of improvement things took a turn towards the worse with the onset of the partition. Apart from the killings and the loot the most tragic thing for the Indian Muslims was the migration of highly educated Muslims to Pakistan leaving them without any role models. This ???migration to Pakistan??? theory was valid up until 1971 when Pakistan finally tightened up its migration policy. Other reasons include a lack of modern education and discrimination (???plausible for some jobs??? but ???hard to establish court-admissible evidence???). Despite the limitations the book offers a number of instances where discrimination. Khalidi draws on personal interviews to document several such instances of blatant discrimination. Mian Azim Hussain, a Punjabi IFS officer, opted for India in 1947. In the mid 1960???s, when ???the post of Foreign Secretary was about to fall vacant, it was openly said in the corridors of the service were ruled out for selection to the top job.??? The reservation of seats made things tougher for Muslims argues Khalidi. ???The reservation system made competition that much more difficult for poor Muslims, whose educational condition has not been any better than those of SCs and STs (Interestingly this fact is now being forwarded by opponents of reservation like Bhalla).
To the successive governments??? credit the book also provides detailed information on the various government schemes and commissions initiated for minorities. It is another matter that there have been numerous instances of fraud and mismanagement.
Khalidi limits his discussion on the role played by Islam to say that ???Islam itself is certainly no impediment to education and critical inquiry. However, interpretations of Islam by certain vested groups can certainly be a roadblock to modern education.??? It would have been informative if the author had examined this issue in detail as some observers (most notably former VC of AMU Hashim Ali Akhtar in his Riba & Credit Needs of Muslims) have claimed that Muslim aversion to interest bearing loans and the lack of alternatives to them are a major roadblock in their path to progress.
Also missing from the study are some important reports. One such report was compiled by the leading advocate and anti-Shuddhi leader Ghulam Bhik Nairang. He was delegated by the Muslim League to draft the Delhi University Amendment Bill in which it had argued to raise the number of Muslims in departments where they were few of them (Kalaam-e-Nairang Ed.Dr.Moinuddin Aqeel).
Muslims in Indian Economy is a densely documented book put together through years of research and analysis. It gives statistical support to the claims of Muslim backwardness and impoverishment. It is expected that the author will provide a more complete analysis of the economic condition of Indian Muslims, covering all the states, in the near future.
I thought those problems are not only in your country but also others developing countries. The backwardness is come because the majority of those moslems are undereducated and they have no power in political and economical position too. And many of them fight to each others to get govermental positions and when they got it.....you now what happen then. Radicalism, coruption, nepotism etc are become parts of those majority muslim countries. We need to get our beloved Mohamed SAW path and Qoran in propriate ways to get our victory. Insya Allah ..